Diva (10.5 x 12 cms ink and collage on Hahnemühle bamboo paper 2015)
There comes a point in your life when you can finally say that something doesn’t appeal to you. For years I’ve tried to like opera: in my youth I sat through an English-language performance of Wagner that seemed to last for about half of my life; I’ve listened to ‘Live from the Met’ on the radio until my ears bleed; I sat through a live broadcast of Verdi in a park until the dog got so agitated I had to leave. The music is often wonderful – Rameau, for example – but then someone starts singing over it. So now, having given opera every chance, I can categorically say that I don’t enjoy it and probably never will. Well, apart from the melodic bits of Puccini and that Poulenc opera where the nuns are beheaded one by one during the French Revolution.
The caricaturist, Max Beerbohm, once wrote,
These little marionettes with big voice, making so gigantic a pother about something or other, have keen pathos in my sight – types of our poor estate, of our vanity, our pompous endeavouring, our insignificance, on the world’s stage. See! The wee tenor is going to kill himself with a dagger. No! The wee soprano prevents him. Tiny, intelligent, full of purpose, performing with all their might tasks for which I see no reason, they seem to me – these two – like a pair of ants on a pathway.
That’s about it, I’d say.
Limes (15cms x 15cms oil on board 2015)
The point about daily painting is that it’s not supposed to take two months to finish a small picture the size of a bathroom tile. Yet something about the shadows in this picture trapped me like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights and I came to a grinding halt. It sat there on the easel in our tiny conservatory (otherwise known as the ‘summer studio’), metaphorically wagging its oily finger at me, tut-tutting every time I walked past, until I could stand it no longer and finally finished it last Saturday. I quite like it now – the brushwork is nice and loose – and I might even start another one, perhaps of a nectarine. Don’t count on it appearing next week though…
Carol Marine would despair of me.
All images are A3, charcoal or graphite on paper or newsprint 2014-15
There’s something about life drawing that seems to connect you to the heart of mark-making. Perhaps it’s the intensity of the looking, the unusual connection between the model and the person drawing or the particular challenges in interpreting the human body in graphite and charcoal. I searched for years to find a good life-drawing class locally, and finally found one taught by the excellent Ed Cooper. These are a selection from last term’s sessions.
There are some that prefer not to have the model in the room, however. Jenny Saville, surely one of the most impressive figurative painters working today, finds it distracting to have a model present. Yet I’d be pushed to think of anyone who can draw and paint the human body better. The Times’ art critic, Waldemar Januszczak, has written ‘Saville is the best painter of the female nipple I have seen…She gets them perfectly.’ I’m pretty sure her ambitions stretch beyond that though.
Accidents Will Happen in the Land of False Noses (2014 ink on a sketchbook page)
A few months ago I entered this drawing into a competition run by an ink company. It wasn’t shortlisted.
Last month I entered it for the Anonymous Drawings project. It wasn’t chosen.
It isn’t a bad drawing, hopefully. The whole idea of people (and animals) wearing everyday objects as false noses is quite engaging – to me (and my partner, who made it up) at least. It just demonstrates that art is subjective and that, thankfully, we can’t all like the same thing. If you enter a drawing or painting into competitions then you have to accept the possibility that it’ll be rejected and one mustn’t take these things personally.
Perhaps I’ll keep entering it for things until it becomes the most rejected drawing of all time. Then, perhaps, someone will show it some love and clasp it to their bosom, murmuring softly, “Now you have a home…”